The NCAA tournament is finally here. Once again there are a number of young and talented teams that will be favored to win the national title. Most notably, Duke, Kentucky and LSU are loaded with young talent. Many of their players will be one-and-done, taking their considerable talents to the NBA next season. Over the past ten years, it seems like teams are getting consistently younger.
Yet, has this been an effective strategy come March? These teams that are built upon young talent destined for the NBA have been successful during the regular season. They often have success in their conference and regular season. But come playoff time, it is often the veteran-led squads that succeed. Teams that possess veterans who have experience playing in high-pressure situations are consistently winning. This is why you should favor experience over youth in the NCAA Tournament.
Why You Should Take Experience Over Youth In The NCAA Tournament
Start of the One-And-Done Era
There have been young teams in the past that have had tremendous success in college basketball. The easiest example is that of the Fab Five at Michigan in the early 90s. In 2006, the NBA decided that “homegrown” players had to be one year removed from high school before entering the NBA draft. This started the one-and-done college player trend. It wasn’t until the 2009-10 season that we saw our first one-and-done super team. This was the Kentucky Wildcats team led by superstar John Wall.
That Wildcats squad was loaded with NBA talent. In fact, five players were drafted in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft. John Wall went first overall, followed by DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton. Duke quickly jumped on the bandwagon and in 2014-15 squad. This team consisted of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen and Justise Winslow.
The Best One-and-Done Teams
While teams that are led by freshmen have been extremely successful, most of that success has been in the regular season and conference tournaments. It is actually rare that these young, star-studded teams win the NCAA Tournament. The only two over the past 10 seasons are the aforementioned 2014-15 Duke team and the Anthony Davis–led 2011-2012 Kentucky team. Arguably the best basketball team of the past decade was the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats that boasted the freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis, along with sophomores Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson. That team was undefeated until the Final Four where they lost to the Wisconsin Badgers and Senior Frank Kaminsky and Junior Sam Dekker.
The past two Villanova teams have had terrific veterans in the shape of Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges in 2018 and Josh Heart and Ryan Arcidiacono in 2016. The North Carolina Tar Heels that went to back-to-back Finals and won in 2017 were led by Seniors Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks and Juniors Theo Pinson and Joel Berry. Looking back even farther, there was the Louisville Cardinals squad that was spearheaded by Peyton Siva and Russ Smith in 2012-13.
Even if you look at the teams that lost in the Finals, they generally have senior players as the best players. The Gonzaga Bulldogs went to the 2017 NCAA Tournament Finals, falling just short against North Carolina. That team had Przemek Karnowski, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews as the teams best players. Even smaller schools that experience success such as VCU, Wichita State and Loyola-Chicago were laden with seniors. When filling out your bracket, always pick experience over youth in the NCAA Tournament. Unless of course, they have a generational talent like Anthony Davis or a Zion Williamson.
DURHAM, NC – NOVEMBER 14: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) goes for the dunk during the 1st half of the Duke Blue Devils game versus the Eastern Michigan Eagles on November 14, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)